If the President signs the Hubbard Act (H.R. 6580), the qualified funeral trust will have the capability to fund all of an individual’s final expenses. When enacted, Section 685 imposed a $7,000 cap on the preneed trusts that could elect special tax treatment. While the limitation increased annually, the cap was too low to permit funding of funeral and cemetery contracts. The cap also precluded cash advance related expenses from being included in many preneed contracts. The Hubbard Act may open the door to allow the Qualified Funeral Trust to become more of a final expense trust. 

The Hubbard Act would amend Section 685 for the 2009 tax year. We will need to wait for IRS guidance regarding any retroactive application of the amendment. However, the Hubbard Act would not impact the requirement that the trust must make a payout within 60 days of the beneficiary’s death.

It is interesting to note from the Congressional record that most trustees probably prepare the 1041 QFT without individual sub accounting. With regard to the Hubbard Act, the Congressional Budget Office reports that the Joint Committee on Taxation (the JCT) estimates the elimination of the QFT limitation will increase tax revenues $6 million over the next 9 years. This estimate is based on the assumption that trusts will produce more income that will be taxed at the higher rates

A 1041 QFT will be taxed at the lowest rate (15%) until its income exceeds $2,150. The next tax rate (25%) applies until the trust income exceeds $5,000. Assume the QFT maximum for 2008 ($9,000), and the trust has to have a return of nearly 24% before the second lowest tax rate is reached. If one were to assume the 1041 QFT has a trust of $25,000, the trust has to have a return of 8.6% (net of trustee fees).   Obviously, the JCT are looking at numbers that indicate that trustees are preparing the QFT without individual sub accounting. OUCH!

Assume a $3,000,000 preneed trust with 500 preneed contracts earns net income of 5%, or $150,000. With individual sub accounting, that trust’s 1041 QFT should have an approximate tax liability of $22,500. Without individual sub accounting, that same 1041 QFT will have an approximate tax liability of $51,543.50.   Even with the elimination of the Section 685 cap, the tax liability of the QFT with individual sub accounting will likely be taxed at 15%.   The difference equates to nearly 1% of the trust, or a good argument for better individual sub accounting.

The principal purpose of the Hubbard Act is to provide benefits to the survivors of soldiers killed or severely injured.   I doubt it was coincidental that taxes from preneed trusts will be used to offset the costs of helping a soldier’s survivor build a new life.